Allergy season: knowing it and defeating it

By Joshua Kellams, NewsNetNebraska

A special time of year has once again arrived, where noses run aplenty, sneezing is inevitable and coughing fits are fruitful.

If you haven’t seen or felt the signs yet, you probably will soon. Allergy season is back in full force.

The University Health Center already has begun to treat allergy sufferers only two weeks removed from winter, said Sharon Pilus, a resident nurse who has been at the center for 20 years.

“It’s kind of a you love the warm weather, but at the same time, you’re having allergy symptoms,” Pilus said.

Unfortunately, experts have predicted this season could be one of the longest – and worst – allergy seasons in history.

In preparation, NewsNetNebraska offers you some helpful strategies as allergy season gets underway.

Allergy basics and symptoms

Allergens are the substances that cause people to experience allergy symptoms.

It all means allergy sufferers could experience these familiar symptoms.

“Usually, the itchy, tearing eyes, both eyes,” Pilus said.  “That constant runny nose with clear nasal drainage.  Little dark circles under their eyes.  They also can do what is called an allergic salute.”

The “salute” is when excess drainage leaves the nose, and the sufferer has to swipe up with the palm of their hand to clear the drainage away.

Although a bit unpleasant to think about, people with allergies experience this often.

But the first step to defeating the enemy is knowing the enemy.

Allergy triggers

Allergens can appear either indoors or outdoors and in a variety of forms.  The most common indoor triggers, according to the UHC, are:

  • Dust mites, which though near impossible to see, live in linens and other household materials like furniture and carpet.
  • Pet dander, which are caused by a protein found in animal’s saliva, urine, blood or skin flakes.
  • Mold, which can travel through the air and can grow indoors on wet surfaces.  Mold spores can commonly appear in basements, bathrooms and shower stalls.

Common outdoor triggers include:

  • Weed pollen. The most common come from plain-looking plants that aren’t necessarily pretty, such as ragweed.  Weed pollen is typically a bigger problem in the fall.
  • Tree pollen, which includes those from elm, oak, walnut, birch and cedar — the more common culprits.  Tree pollen allergies are at their peak in the spring months.
  • Grass pollen, which is usually more of a problem in the summer months, but can affect allergy sufferers all season long.
  • Outdoor mold. These spores are extremely small and people may not know they inhaled them.  The most likely places for mold are in heavy vegetation, soil, grass, hay and straw.

You suffer from allergies – what’s next?

If you suffer from indoor allergies, the UHC provides tips for ensuring your home environment is safe and healthy.

  • Filter your air.
  • Minimize dust mite matter by using hypoallergenic bedding and zippered, dust-proof covers
  • Control pets by keeping them off furniture and out of bedrooms.
  • Prevent mold by keeping your home dry.  The most common mold locations are basements, bathrooms, shower stalls, house plants, humidifiers and garbage pails.
  • Control cockroaches by keeping food covered and putting pet food away once pets finish eating.  Wipe hard surfaces with water, detergent and 5 percent bleach (but don’t mix with other cleaners).

Outdoor allergy tips:

  • Find a comfort zone and know your outdoor limits.  Pollen counts are available through a variety of sources and phone apps.  Get tested by an allergist to know what
  • Keep outdoor allergens out by closing doors and windows.  Shower and change your clothes if you’ve been outside.
  • Travel wisely by scheduling trips away from places with high pollen counts.
  • Stay off grass.
  • Dry your clothes/linens indoors as opposed to outdoors.
  • Protect yourself by using a mask when mowing the lawn or raking leaves.  Wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts may also help.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Health Center, located at 15th and U St., Lincoln, Neb.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Health Center, located at 15th and U St., Lincoln, Neb.

What the UHC offers

If you are suffering from allergies or any of the symptoms listed above, the health center is an available resource.

Although it no longer offers allergy testing, the center’s medical professionals can diagnose symptoms and provide treatment — or recommend a community allergist.

Pilus also said the center offers immune-therapy shots, which “desensitize” the user, building immunity.

“They start with a very dilute serum, very small amounts,” Pilus said.  “And then bi-weekly, or weekly, you’ll get a shot that will just gradually increase in potency.”

The programs may take three-to-six months before the patient notices relief, and the programs typically last for two-to-five years.

Students and staff can visit the UHC website here for more information about billing and services the UHC provides.

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